Monday, October 30, 2006


To get in the Halloween spirit, since my parents moved to a town where we don’t know many people, my brother and I rented horror flicks and ate too much store-bought pumpkin pie.

Word to the wise: if you’re already feeling out of it, do not, under any circumstances rent Stephen King’s It.

Of course, you already knew that, cause you’re smart. What was I thinking? Oh I don’t know, that it would be a fun, fabulous release. I’d squeal and cheer and think about something else. But I was instead refreshed on a valuable lesson, the same one I learned mere moments after Requiem for a Dream’s credits began to roll.

Watching people writhe through their own horrible circumstances doesn’t quite make you feel better. It just makes you feel way, way worse. Who would have thought?

So back to It, and back to store-bought pumpkin pie. Still scary. And filmed in that weird early 80s grain. And starring Jonathan Brandis, who incidentally, killed himself not too long ago. Abusive parents, suicides, alcoholism. Killer clowns. Kids being awful to other kids, trying to stone each other to death while also hurling horrible insults.

The only upside is that a very tall-looking Seth Green is one of the kids. This my brother would not pipe down about as we watched, making me rewind scenes that I wanted to cover my eyes for since we couldn’t keep track of what was happening with all his narrative interruptions and too-loud laughter.

That coupled with our antiquey groaning house and our cat, who is black and likes to pounce in the dark anytime I come downstairs for ice water in the middle of the night, he’ll bat-bat his paws through the grate of the railing at my head or jump on my leg and sink his little needle teeth into my ankle, makes for a little too much horror for a Saturday evening in Connecticut.

You think I would have said no when the roomies invited me to see Saw III. But still, I love that stuff (I really ‘liked’ The Descent. Not that I will ever see it again). I like to jump. I love roller coasters and haunted hayrides and scary movies. Usually.

A few twisted bones and lacerated skulls later and I started to get drained of the Halloween spirit. I think I saturated myself with freakfests and blood, thinking that was the way to get prepared for the holiday.

So no more scary stuff for Halloween, at least for another day. Enough is screwed up and violent and wrong and scary with the world. I want the lighter side of Halloween. Back when my family would have jack-o-lantern carving contests and my dad would always win ‘cause he’d go by the kit and the rest of us insisted on our creative spirits, hacking jagged mouths and drooping triangle eyes.

Or when I’d trick or treat with Rachel, my red-haired best friend in Buchanan-Verplank, and I was always a cat and she was always something obscure, and I’d trade her all of my other candy for her peanut butter cups. Then later in junior high and prep school when we’d all go to dances and it became clear that Halloween was cart blanche for dressing slutty, but unfortunately so, because it was always cold, so we’d freeze our butts off in skimpy dresses and high boots and wigs just to impress the boys.

Then further on, when we’d pound beers and go see the parade in Chapel Hill and people dressed like The Ambiguously Gay Duo and Muff Divers and for two years running I dressed like a raver because I used to think I was one and it was fun to wear the big pants again and get permission to look ridiculous. Not scary times then, and great Halloweens.

Enough with the scary stuff. I need candy and cocktails and a last-minute costume. Any ideas?*

* (Taping a star onto my stomach to be a ‘Star Bellied Sneech’ is out of the running since my high school best friend already did that one)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Road to Recovery

Things are heavy, heady lately.

I’m confiding in you a secret: I am my own worst enemy and my greatest friend. I walk with toes in front of toes on a yellow line bisecting the road to recovery. One step forward, two to the side.

There is a burden to being young, and this is it. We know too little and we feel too much.

Each moment is exhausting in importance. The weight of what means what is suffocating and infuriating and hard and uneasy. Knowing why is little to no comfort. We want to know how. One step forward, now three to the side.

I may not be better than the confines of my own attitude. But let’s pretend. Because if we do, fakery becomes the truth. There are much bigger problems in the world and to fall into our lives, even past the extent of our imagination. Preparedness is a fallacy. And yet, this does not, will not worry me. Things are precious only because they fade and dry, and still I would not give anything up to circumvent such loss. Not life, not love, not ever.

Someone said to me, be here now. Every breath, every heartbeat is now, in this time and space. Use your life energy in a positive way in the space you occupy.

I feel a calm wash. Without a crystal pendant and hippie beads. No dreamcatcher, only dreams. Toes back on the yellow line.

Now, just one step forward and nothing else, as fast and far as I can muster. I know the road will lead me places I did not think I’d be able to go, not alone, and yet I will. Because all things fade, even hurt, even death, even this.

Monday, October 23, 2006


Under the sun, geckos dart around my feet, and I think about the things that matter. What they are. What they are not.

I think they’re not budget reports and filing piles. They are not dinners with peers strategizing nor blank-faced TV programs where hours pass, uncounted. They are not a blur of drunken vomiting and strangers kissed each weekend to fill the unfulfilled. They are not when days knit together, undulating grumpily until there are two parts of one life—the minutes spent anticipating and the minutes spent reminiscing. They are not go go go and yoga merely purposed to un-hunch shoulders, praying only when things are bad because we wish them to be good, breathing merely to dissipate emotion and apologies to get our way.

They are, instead, sadness at stopping and finally seeing what we have wasted our time and energy on. They are finding the right in saving ourselves from ourselves, and our own distractions. They are realized the moment we inhale cut grass and understand that living is anything we make of it, sure, but more, we hold a choice in our balled hands. That choice is to make it good, make it count, and be free or to bow to impositions, cower under the difficulties of waking each morning and to let anything move us instead of moving it ourselves.

I think a popsicle and open sky and two fully-formed feet are incredible gifts once I unfurl my heart. I think what matters is being thankful and being forgiving and forgiven.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Order the Pancakes

When I was little, I was very little. And very talkative.

I always got in trouble in the kindergarten classroom for chatting, never my friends, because anyone who knows me will tell you my voice carries and it carries far. I’d like to think it wasn’t because I was bad per se, yet somehow I was always the one caught whispering during the lecture or nap time. I went on and on inquiring about my parents’ days so much through dinner that I had to be reminded of taking a bite of chicken and green beans every few sentences. I talked to my teddy bear, Rosie, until we both fell asleep. I was fearless with strangers. I talked to them instead of cowering and if one got too close or too weird, I knew I held a blood-curdling scream that would make any shadowy figure run off in search of an easier victim.

On weekends, I dressed up in pink shorts and long strands of coated beads, striped hair bands and fuzzy leggings. I rode around on my red trike like that in patent leather sandals, up and down the level sidewalk in front of our Colorado condo. I’d sing under my breath, because even at that young age I knew my voice was too loud and too often and not meant for song, and so I’d choreograph dances and try to ride bareback on the dog as though he was a horse when my mom wasn’t looking. Then I'd be called inside with exasperation for my chores.

Afterwards, if my newly-cleaned room passed inspection, my dad would take me to my favorite breakfast place in the world: McDonald’s. My mom would never join us (in her words: “How can you eat that junk?”) so it was just our thing and ours alone and I loved it, riding in the Buick and pulling into the blacktop parking lot. We’d saunter up to the counter where a bored teenager popped gum and my dad strongly and I remember, very adult-ly, ordered what he always ordered: a sausage McMuffin and a black coffee. Then he nudged me, indicating it was my turn to speak, just like him, to the cashier.

That’s where the trouble started.

I would try to order what I always wanted: the pancakes. But when I was up there, tiptoeing to peer over the counter into the confusing abyss of workers, tongs and heating surfaces, the girl would never see me. She’d look past me, above me. Sometimes people behind us would take the opportunity to order instead, and I was left there with my lip trembling, tugging on my dad’s shirt, ashamed at not beeing counted and begging him to please, please say something. Anything. Couldn’t he just order for me? Even then I knew that he wanted me to act like I was a big kid. Even then I knew that I was not.

He never did the hard stuff for me. Not once. Instead he would crouch down and say, “K, you can do this. Just go ahead.”

And I would try again, barely getting out the words at an audible volume, “Please may I have the pancakes?” I heard the hungry patrons behind me grumble as a strange mouse voice that I did not recognize squeaked from my usually confident mouth.

The girl never heard me, of course.

So one more time, I would feel my dad’s big hand on my shoulder and I would finally look the girl in the eyes and say it again and say it loud. “I would like the pancakes, please.”

Once I got over ordering, probably about a year after that, it became a running joke in our family. When I was nervous before going to college, when I expressed indecision over moving to the city, when I wanted to leave my first job because they paid poorly and treated me even worse, he said it to me.

“K, just order the pancakes.” It's his version of the "get off the pot" saying. It's all about me and it works.

Any time I am afraid of the next chapter and any time I hesitate, I hear those words, either from my dad or in my own head.

They make me think about then. I’ll remember back to when I actually was small, and didn’t just feel small, when the most daunting task of my life was placing my hands on the orange counter, looking a seventeen year old in the eye, and ordering something that I wanted. Perspectives change. What was once debilitating is now commonplace and easy. Funny how that works.

It reminds me that I can get what I want, what I feel I must get, even if someone doesn’t think I should, or doesn’t notice me, it doesn’t matter. I deserved the pancakes as much as the man behind me deserved a breakfast burrito and after a while and many scared times, I learned that being quiet at the exact moment when you really need to be loud just does not work. It doesn’t get your order in, it doesn’t get you what you need. That’s why my dad never ordered for me. I needed to learn that on my own. And I still need to learn it, and am, every single day, that ordering the pancakes seems silly and stupid now, as I’m facing far greater dangers in the world (like a broken spirit or loss of self), but strangely enough, that act is a metaphor for my life and for solidarity.

Today, I’m ordering the pancakes with a strong voice. Because everyone deserves to be heard. Even me.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Make the Grade

Grad school fantasies are infiltrating all my stolen moments, the ones that used to be crammed full of tropical imaginations and media gossip. How about that?

Keep in mind how I like to hide from reality by curling up and thinking. All the time. Academia’s conducive to that. So, therefore, I must be conducive to academia. Can’t you just see me among the corn stalks of Iowa (the thought-of Harvard of MFAs—hey we’re aspiring here aren’t we?), trampling dim flatlands of low soy, and spinning my wheels forever in perpetual motion?

When I slogged through the sugarcane fields of Australia, stealing apples to eat along the way, I came upon a trampled snake, squished red through his skin. He stopped me. Everything stops me. My treads and tracks are conducive to ending too soon.

Though maybe not this time. Back to dreaming, again, so something must be right.

Monday, October 16, 2006


Some people have it. No, correction, all people have it. Deep down, somewhere. Some just need friends to pull strings of it out of their hearts, or crises to drive them to the brink and then over the cliff, grasping towards a floating band of inner self, that intangible well we never think we need to drain. The reason why most of us only pray when things are bad. Our flippant attitudes when we’re in the elite position of not really “needing” it, though it’s precisely because we have an abundance of said strength that we’re in a position to think that way. Back to my one-hand clapping I guess.

That’s the problem with strength. Only in your weak moments do you realize how important it is, and how hard it is to harvest.

My lovely and talented writing teacher’s engagement just got broken. Not by her. My jaw dropped at the news. She keeps herself off the floor, how? I suddenly had visions of myself in the same situation, licking Chubby Hubby off of a spoon in flannel pajamas, screaming at the screen as Bridget Jones’s Diary cycles for a fourth playing. I'm jarred out of it just as a fresh round of tears well up at the prospect. Flash forward to now, and drinks with her tonight. Maybe she’s got the one-line secret to strength. But if she does, it's only for her, not the rest of us mere mortals.

Mine’s in the reserves. And I’m cashing it all out.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Day One

I think by now I can admit, I’m pretty fond of soul-searching. I ponder, I wonder, I aspire all things.

I get too wrapped up in thinking and inaction. I’m still, but my mind races.

Everything observation is a trade-off. To take the time to analyze dwindles what may be left to simply do.

So here I am, officially in my mid-twenties, and yes, I realize I need to change the descriptor on the sidebar, but please, can’t I do it next week, next month, next year?

I’ve never been one to go quietly, I’m screaming in my head at least, even if my face hides all, and for this, the age-old 'first day of the rest of my life', I will stay true to myself. Stand by.

In front of Barnett Newman I looked up at an expanse; to me it was more orange than red, but to the warbling voice through the Whitney’s audio earphones, it was the opposite of course.

This was Day One, of many things. The title of the work, my birthday, a state of knowing and then not.

Barnett told me via the voice that he reconciled with the idea of beginning with color. And what did that mean?

It meant the towering piece’s intent was to show in a small room so it could inundate; transport us all into the field of orange.

And the voice asked, what is the meaning of this? As though he was my grandfather or something, he said it just like that.

The voice answered itself. To strive for the sublime, though the definition of the word is quite fluid, it still had that ring.

Sublime as in nature, enlightenment, the afternoon alone somehow, though surrounded by shuffling museum patrons. This is what it was, I’m sure that’s what the voice would have said, had the voice been alive and next to me.

He said it was the beginning. Day One. Of a new world, or at least a new picture.

And it was.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Squidward Falling In The Woods

In Australia, I had an apartment in Cairns. It was small and white and with lattice slats for windows beyond screens. A sliding door, a tiny kitchen that held only honey and bread, because that’s all I ate and no one told me I couldn’t. This was between fruit-picking possibilities, and at the end of my saved money.

In the apartment, I had a fish. His name was Squidward and he was a blue beta with purple wings. I bought him at the mall, which also housed the bank and the grocery store, the butcher and the bakery. He fluttered a lot, and for that, I gave him extra white stones from the cliffed edges of the bay to line his large makeshift pool, a huge vase balanced on wooden table with one solitary leg.

I came home one day dragging a crab pot and sat on the floor and watched Neighbors on an old TV, and he swam and scowled when I turned off the lights. I didn’t say goodbye, I didn’t say anything, of course. Squidward and I didn’t have that kind of relationship yet.

But when I woke up the next morning, under a whirling fan in the hot northern sun, something was wrong.

Squidward was gone.

Our windows were not open. Our door was locked. But Squidward was nowhere to be found.

Not in the vase, under the rocks.

Not on the floor, under the couch. (I was so forlorn at the prospect of finding his shriveled body curled around a chair leg that I delegated that task to someone else, both confused and relieved when he wasn’t there).

We searched every crawling inch of that apartment and he was nowhere.

Friends next door (one Aboriginal, the other from Papua New Guinea who turned the crab into coconut soup and joked about her cannibalistic family even though no one laughed) could not find a solution.

Well, one. That the apartment was haunted. But a ghost who tormented us by taking our fish? I couldn’t imagine that made sense.

And even if a cat had crawled through some unforeseen gap in the glass, surely that cat would have made some sort of crashing mess? There wasn’t room for anything to climb in and get Squidward unless they balanced on the table too, and it was small, and it would have fallen.

We never found out what happened to him. We don’t like to think about it—it’s as though we’re listening to the sound of one-hand clapping. Our own mind-clearing mantra of the unknown.

Did he spring legs and jump ship? Did he disintegrate in the night? Did he hate us and end it all, flip out of the water and hop towards the door and off into the sunset?

I don’t know. I’ll never know. That’s the tree falling in the woods for me: Squidward.

Today, he's my mantra, for mind clearing, soul searching, and everything else.

The Flowers

There is decaying grandeur at my desk in the form of an outrageously large floral arrangement, courtesy of my mother.

The once lovely bells of Ireland, Calla lilies and long fingers of orchids are drooping, yellowing, and drying out their once-sturdy green.

The water grows murkier by the minute, the stems fray out in smushy bits, and they permeate that smell, you know the one, that smell of mildewed shower which flowers expel as they die.

The leaves of formerly supple buds curl brownish on their edges because on the weekend, while no one was here to tend to them or prevent it, they crossed the line of beautiful vibrancy. Instead they stranglehold their sadsack grip on a memory that is no longer worth recalling.


Metaphor? Maybe…

Friday, October 06, 2006


Home is my mom complaining about my hair and arriving late to pick me up at the train station.

Home is my dog crowding the blanket and couch, his furry legs spread over all three leather cushions.

Home is taking my brother to see Jackass 2 because that, to me, is being a “good” older sister. Paying for it out of my paltry salary and not telling my parents what we saw is being a “great” one.

Home is a too small bed and the cats jumping on my feet as I sleep, and nothing to wake up for, but that never stops everyone from coming in at 8:30 on a Saturday anyway.

Home is the pedicure place with the real massage chairs, not just the ones that vibrate, the ones that knead and roll with their motorized fingers into the stress knots in your back.

Home is the good kitchen lamps and textured paint, and aprons, and jugs of juice and lamb chops with smashed potatoes and sautéed spinach and corn jumbled together.

Home is a real wine collection, ruby-toned bottles corked just for the hell of it, because celebrating the weekend is celebration enough.

It has been a very tough week. And I’ll say it now, just as I did after the seven days I spent at sleep-away camp when I was eight, having bunked directly above the girl who soiled her pants; I want to go home, please.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Thinking of favorite things makes everything bad, good again.

Today I’m thinking of three favorite, inspiring writers.

They take me to what my spring art instructor used to say. She said it through thin lips and heavy sweaters. She pointed a long finger, “Keep it painterly.” She didn't explain.

What that meant for me was showing our strokes as artists, our lumps in the paint, the puddles pooled and dripped and the shadows drawn as they were only to us, not as they should be to anyone else.

That meant the sloping breast of a model, mottled if we wanted, or just a blot of our palette knife in one, long, black stroke. That meant the unique curve of the spine stayed or not, and how the direction of our brushes would and should be shown heavily, long after the class had gone. Our interpretations were to highlight that we were aware of our craft. That we were not taking photographs without a filter through our own eyes and our own deceptions.

Keeping it painterly was not as easy as it seems. It’s hard to fight a natural inclination to perfect something imperfect. It’s even harder to show the effort discriminately without overdoing it.

Showing your strokes, admitting to the process. That all things take work, and time, and scars.

That’s hard, on all important fronts. Painting, love, and life.

These writers keep it painterly, well, actually, writerly for me: Raymond Carver, Amy Hempel, Joan Didion. I love them truly for this; their effort in each sentence can be analyzed or sped past with all the hints of understanding anyhow. I admire them for that. They do good by it, for me.

And who does for you?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Chin Up

Welcome to K’s pity party!

No, no. Don’t leave your shoes at the door. You’ll need them to come in and smear mud on the floor boards, and what would a pity party be if you didn’t end by walking them all over me? (*uncomfortable silence*)

Don’t be shy!

How do you like my decorations? Voodoo dolls are back I’m telling you. No, it’s not a Halloween theme. But great idea, I should use them for that in a few weeks.

You like the music, right? Our soundtrack is uncontrollable sobbing interspersed with mumbles of inappropriate, manic giggling at the ridiculousness of it all. You don’t like it? Fine, I’ll put on Emo. As if there’s any difference. Zing!

Are you hungry? Don’t fret, we’ve got snacks at this party. And seriously, when was the last time you had snacks at a party? No, fancy cocktail hours and wine and cheese pairings don’t count. No, there’s no baked brie, but how about a nice big slice of humble pie? It goes really well if you wash it down with an icy cold glass of bitter desperation.

So, yeah. Uh. How’ve you been? Grrrrreaaaaaaat. No really, that's great.


You’re right. This party blows. Let’s get out of here.

This is what they make massages, chocolate, and down comforters for. Corral pain into poignant moments in the novel, and move the hell on…

Monday, October 02, 2006

And The Lonely Blows In...

Being alone is fun, until it’s not your choice.

This weekend I was forced alone, and I spent it glued to the couch and dragging myself outside for sludgy coffee and impractical purchases. I saw “Little Miss Sunshine”, alone. I bought suede boots that I have no idea how to wear, alone. I wandered the crowded streets, alone, and the worst part was, there was a stretch of several hours where I called no one and no one called me and I was struck hard by how I could have been snatched in that timeframe, quartered and thrown in a dumpster, and yet, no one would have known and no one would have cared.

I’m mourning the death of my former life now, and I don’t deal well with grief. Everything is exhausting and pointless; I found myself 100 pages in to reading “The Corrections” before I realized I had already read it. Every action I take is a step back. My novel is stagnant at page 125 as of this second.

Being a tortured artist is overrated. I’m not finding comfort in the aesthetic of pain. I can’t slash angry lyrics on a page, or even be lyrical at that. I can only create when I’m happy, not shivering on a corner of the bed, face hot, paralyzed by fear. Of the unknown. Of the thought that things that do not make you who you are, and even if they do, they are wasted, you could have done it some other way, known a slice instead of a wave of sadness and you could have learned it just from that…

Feelings mock. Things that control my life that I have no say in. Or worse, I do, and it’s my fault that things have unfolded as they are, and of course, whose fault would it be otherwise? structures crumbling in my hands, and the thought of the reason why is something that could keep me sick at night, because I really do not know. I do not know how much of me is supposed to be, and why it’s here.

Every action tastes like a mistake these days. Fingernails get dirty faster and sleepiness crowds my eyes, something is wrong, and while there must be a remedy, someone else holds it today, not me.